Alex Mafi match winner, Matt To’omua miss after final siren overshadow Suliasi Vunivalu debut


Powell’s boot just beat Vunivalu’s outstretched hand to the ball, earning the Reds a drop-out which eventually proved pivotal.

Vunivalu had a handful of other touches in a frenetic final 15 minutes but he overshadowed by a teammate.

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Alex Mafi – who had scored an earlier try at the back of a rolling maul – also almost scored the try of the season after an O’Connor chip kick created space for Hunter Paisami.

But after a Hodge trysaver – his second of the night – Mafi fumbled the ball a metre from the line.

A few minutes later, Mafi threw a perfect lineout ball to Seru Uru, received a pop pass from Fraser McReight, double pumped, burst through a gap and scored the eventual match-winner.

It was only the match-winner after Matt To’omua missed a shot at goal from just over 40 metres out after the final siren had sounded.

“I’ll be up for a little bit tonight, staring at the wall,” To’omua said post match.

Mafi’s match-winner was particularly remarkable given the Reds played the final 20 minutes with just 14 men.

Referee Jordan Way – who blew an eye-watering 32 penalties – showed Feao Fotuaika a red card for a clean-out on Richard Hardwick which made contact with the openside’s head.

But the one-man advantage did not aid the Rebels.

The visitors hardly troubled the Reds with ball in hand all night. But they were the smarter of the two sides.

While Queensland only conceded seven of the 18 first-half penalties, several were well within To’omua’s range.

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The star Wallabies playmaker duly slotted four penalty goals in the first 40 minutes, giving his side a 12-6 lead.

The Rebels took points whenever they were on offer. The Reds did not. Queensland had a strange fascination with taking quick taps from penalties where pointing to the posts or kicking for touch would have been far greater percentage plays.

“They won despite their tactics tonight,” Stan Sport analyst Morgan Turinui said post-match.

The tactics left the home side with a six-point half-time deficit despite playing the better rugby with ball in hand.

Jordan Petaia was at his powerful, tackle-busting best. Hunter Paisami’s bell-ringer on To’omua will be part of the highlight reels for the rest of the year. Hamish Stewart was at his creative best in midfield. Up front, Harry Wilson and Fraser McReight led the engine room on both sides of the ball.

But poor game management gave the smarter side opportunities. Queensland blew several opportunities but few would argue the better side lost the match.

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England in New Zealand: Tourists secure series with another assured victory


England opener Tammy Beaumont scored her second half-century in a row
New Zealand 192 (49.5 overs): Halliday 60 (80); Sciver 3-26
England 194-3 (37.4 overs): Beaumont 72* (112), Sciver 63 (61), Jones 46* (45)
England won by seven wickets; lead series 2-0
Scorecard

England secured a series victory over New Zealand with a comprehensive seven-wicket win in the second one-day international in Dunedin.

The hosts fell to 34-5 and, despite Brooke Halliday scoring 60, were dismissed for 192 with a ball to spare.

England opener Tammy Beaumont hit an unbeaten 72 in reply, backed by 63 from Nat Sciver, who had earlier taken 3-26.

Wicketkeeper Amy Jones added 46 not out to help the tourists reach their target with 12.2 overs to spare.

Victory gives England an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, with the final ODI also taking place at the University Oval in Dunedin at 22:00 GMT on Saturday.

It is also England’s 10th consecutive win across all formats.

“We hadn’t played ODIs for a long time so we wanted to hit the ground running in this series,” said Sciver, who was named player of the match.

“We are in a really good place and hopefully we can wrap up victory in the third ODI too.”

Sciver stars as England repeat easy win

England all-rounder Nat Sciver celebrates taking a wicket against New Zealand in the second ODI
Nat Sciver took 3-26 from nine overs before hitting 63

The pattern of this match was similar to England’s comfortable eight-wicket win over the White Ferns in the series opener, which was their first one-day international since December 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Several bowlers made key contributions to restrict the hosts to a sub-par total, before England’s top order chased it down in largely serene fashion.

Fast bowler Katherine Brunt did immediate damage, removing New Zealand openers Natalie Dodd and Hayley Jensen in her first two overs.

Sciver dismissed Kiwi captain Sophie Devine for six, before bowling Amelia Kerr with a beautiful inswinger to leave the hosts 27-4 inside eight overs.

Kate Cross, on her return to the side, had Amy Satterthwaite caught behind for 13, before Katey Martin and Halliday led a brief recovery,

But with leg-spinner Sarah Glenn picking up 2-37, Sciver finally removing Halliday as Jones took her third catch, and two run outs, New Zealand again posted a total that was unlikely to trouble England.

That still proved to be the case even after opener Danni Wyatt was bowled for a two-ball duck and captain Heather Knight was run out by Devine for eight to leave England 12-2.

Beaumont and Sciver responded with consummate knocks – the former hitting her second half-century in a row, with 72 off 112 balls, and Sciver smashing five fours and one six in her 63 off 61 balls.

England were already on pace for a quick victory when Sciver fell to Halliday, but Jones made it even more emphatic, hitting eight fours in her 46 off 45 balls to guide the tourists to 194-3 in 37.4 overs.

The White Ferns have now lost their past 11 ODIs but England will be rightly pleased with another clinical victory as they build towards defending their World Cup title in New Zealand in just over a year’s time.

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Toronto FC re-sign D Justin Morrow through 2021





FILE PHOTO: Oct 23, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow (2) heads the ball as New York City midfielder Alexandru Mitrita (28) and midfielder Ismael Tajouri (29) defend during the second half at CitiField. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

February 25, 2021

Toronto FC re-signed defender Justin Morrow to a new contract through the 2021 season on Tuesday.

Financial terms were not announced.

The 33-year-old veteran is entering his eighth season with Toronto and his 12th MLS campaign.

“Justin has been a fixture with TFC and it’s great to have him signed,” Toronto general manager Ali Curtis said in a news release. “His versatility on the field, veteran presence in the locker room and overall leadership on and off the field have been critical for the club for a long time and we’re thrilled that will continue.”

Morrow is one of three players in Toronto history with more than 200 appearances for the club, along with Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio.

Morrow has 19 goals and 22 assists in 257 career games (240 starts) with Toronto (2014-20) and the San Jose Earthquakes (2010-13).

In June, he was named the executive director of Black Players for Change. The organization won the 2020 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year award in December.

–Field Level Media




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India v England: Hosts win astonishing third Test in two days


England have been bowled out for less than 200 in five consecutive innings
Third Test, Ahmedabad (day two)
England 112 (Crawley 53; Axar 6-38) & 81 (Axar 5-32, Ashwin 4-48)
India 145 (Rohit 66, Root 5-8, Leach 4-54) & 49-0
India won by 10 wickets
Scorecard

England succumbed to a 10-wicket defeat against India inside two days of an astonishing third Test in Ahmedabad.

On a scarcely believable day when both sides collapsed and 17 wickets fell in two sessions, India completed the quickest Test win since 1935 not long into the final session.

England began the day with a thrilling fightback, turning India’s overnight 99-3 into 145 all out.

But, faced with a first-innings deficit of 33, England were bowled out for 81 as India’s spinners ran riot once again.

In a frenzied start to their second innings, England lost Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow within three balls – both bowled by Axar Patel.

Ben Stokes and Joe Root briefly calmed the raucous atmosphere but their dismissals in consecutive overs sparked a sorry procession to England’s lowest Test total in India.

Spinners were responsible for every wicket to fall on the day – and 28 of the 30 in the match – Joe Root taking 5-8 in the first session, Axar 5-32 and Ravichandran Ashwin 4-48, including his 400th Test scalp.

India cruised to their target of 49 inside eight overs, an incredible game wrapped up before the floodlit conditions of a day-night Test could have an impact.

Victory gave India, who lost the first Test, an unassailable 2-1 lead in the series with one match to play and ended England’s hopes of qualifying for the World Test Championship final this summer.

England blown away on wild day

If the first day of this Test was remarkable – England bowled out for 112 despite winning the toss – the second was one of the most incredible in recent memory.

Neither side got to grips with a turning pitch, at least not until India’s chase when England were demoralised after their second collapse of the game.

The 17 wickets fell in 53 overs for the loss of 127 runs, the match over with almost 30 overs remaining on the second day.

Rohit Sharma hits a six to win the game
India’s Rohit Sharma completed victory by hitting Joe Root for six

The fact Root, a part-time off-spinner, claimed such extraordinary figures showed the difficulties faced by batsmen. The spinners found extravagant turn but wickets often fell to deliveries that skidded on.

Although England’s fightback brought them back into the contest, the skill and relentless accuracy of Axar and Ashwin proved too much for a side that also collapsed twice in the second-Test defeat.

Had England mustered another 100 runs India would have had a difficult chase.

Instead, under little pressure, Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma cantered to victory in one-day mode to the delight of the crowd in the world’s largest cricket stadium.

England’s defeat in numbers

  • England lasted 476 balls across two innings – the fifth fewest in their Test history.
  • England scored less than 200 runs in the game for only the seventh time, and the third since 1904.
  • It is the eighth two-day Test since World War Two and England’s first defeat inside two days since 1921.

First, India collapse…

Having wasted winning the toss on day one, England’s fightback with the ball gave them a route back into the contest.

Jack Leach, who removed India captain Virat Kohli in the final over on Wednesday, struck twice early on day two, bowling Ajinkya Rahane as he tried to cut trapping a sweeping Rohit Sharma lbw for 66.

Root then ran through the lower middle order.

Rishabh Pant was caught behind off Root’s first ball before Washington Sundar and Axar fell in the space of three balls to give the England captain figures of 3-0.

While it was Root’s first five-wicket haul in Tests, it only added the questions over England’s choice to pick one frontline spinner in Leach – a view compounded when Root opened the bowling in the fourth innings.

India collapsed from 114-3 to 145 as Leach finished with 4-48, but an impressive bowling performance was soon to be wasted by England’s batsmen.

…then England collapse – again

England’s first showing with the bat put them in a difficult position. The second was feeble and confirmed their fate.

Having seen Crawley bowled first ball, Bairstow attempted to sweep his first delivery and was given out lbw. Although he overturned the decision on review, he was bowled next ball to complete a pair on his return to the side.

After Dom Sibley was caught behind attempting a leg-side heave at Axar, Root and Stokes batted positively in exceptionally difficult conditions but a wicket never felt far away.

Root had already survived a tight review when he was leg before for 19 pushing forward to Axar, and Stokes fell in similar fashion to Ashwin for 25.

Ashwin has now dismissed Stokes 11 times in Tests and, once he fell, the result seemed inevitable.

Ashwin tormented Ollie Pope before bowling him for 12, then had Jofra Archer lbw as he swiped across the line to give him his 400th Test wicket. Playing his 77nd Test, Ashwin is the second quickest bowler to reach the landmark, after Sri Lanka legend Muttiah Muralitharan’s 72.

A series that started so strongly with the bat – England scored 578 in the first innings of the first Test – is teetering on the brink of disarray.

Defeat does not ‘define’ England – what they said

England captain Joe Root: “We won the toss and batted first, but we didn’t capitalise on that. We could have got 250, which would have been a good total. We don’t define ourselves on a performance like that.”

India captain Virat Kohli: “The result went our way but the quality of batting wasn’t at all up to standard by both teams. We were 100-3 and hoping to get more than we needed. There was a lack of application from both sides.”

India spinner Ravichandran Ashwin: “It felt amazing when the board was flashing 400 wickets and the crowd were clapping for me.

“When we collapsed I thought the game could be in the balance, but Axar Patel pulled it back for us and it was a good performance in the third innings.”

Former England spinner Phil Tufnell on The Cricket Social: “I was really excited about this game but I feel a little bit deprived.

“It was a boiling into a fantastic series and it’s sort of become a bit of a shootout and taken away a bit of the skill from the players. I feel a little bit let down.”

England bowler Steven Finn: “England are going to have to look at their team selection. I’ll be amazed if we don’t see a different balance for the last Test.

“But the most important thing is doing your best to draw a line under this game now. They still have an opportunity to draw the series and it is only two Test matches ago that they produced one of the most complete performances by an England team in the sub-continent for a long time.”

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New Zealand v Australia: Guptill hits 97 as hosts win second T20


Martin Guptill smashed eight sixes and six fours on his way to 97 off 50 balls in Dunedin
New Zealand 219-7 (20 overs): Guptill 97 (50)
Australia 215-8 (20 overs): Stoinis 78 (37), Santner 4-31
New Zealand won by 4 runs
Scorecard

Martin Guptill fell three runs short of a third Twenty20 international century to help New Zealand to a thrilling four-run win over Australia in Dunedin.

The opener smashed eight sixes and six fours on his way to 97 off 50 balls as the hosts posted 219-7.

Australia rallied from 113-6 with Marcus Stoinis hitting 78 off 37 deliveries before he was caught off the penultimate ball of the game.

Victory for New Zealand sees them take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.

Boosted by their opening series win in Christchurch, the hosts lost Tim Seifert early before Guptill shared a 131-run partnership with captain Kane Williamson (53) in front of a sell-out crowd at University Oval.

New Zealand’s bowlers looked set to wrap the match up quickly when Mitch Santner (4-31) reduced Australia to 113-6, dismissing both Ashton Agar and Mitchell Marsh for ducks in consecutive balls.

But the visitors rallied with powerful batting from Stoinis and Daniel Sams (41) as they attacked the short boundaries in a quickfire 92-run partnership.

The visitors needed 15 runs off the last over but James Neesham had Sams caught in front of the midwicket boundary with the first ball, before Stoinis, who needed a six and a four off the last two to win the game was caught after slogging to long-on.

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Olympics: Brisbane the frontrunner to land 2032 Games as talks with IOC start



IOC President Thomas Bach welcomes participants to the virtual International Olympic Committee Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland, February 24, 2021. Greg Martin/IOC/Handout via REUTERS

February 24, 2021

By Ian Ransom

BERLIN/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Brisbane took a major step towards being named 2032 Olympic hosts after the International Olympic Committee said on Wednesday that the Australian city had been picked as the preferred partner to start talks for the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC had approved a recommendation of the commission in charge of future hosts.

“This commission recommended to the IOC executive board to enter into a targeted dialogue with Brisbane 2032. The Executive Board has unanimously approved this recommendation,” Bach told a virtual news conference.

Several cities and countries had publicly expressed an interest in the 2032 Games including Brisbane, Indonesia, Budapest, China, Doha and Germany’s Ruhr valley among others.

Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates, also a vice president of the IOC, said the other candidate cities had been “parked for a future Games” by the IOC.

“It was a very mature decision by the IOC,” Coates told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.

“To take a decision when you’ve still got a few other cities there and say we’re going into targeted dialogue with one preferred city was a big call by them and that’s where they ended up.

“It’s a significant recognition of the way we’ve worked together, the three levels of government, the Paralympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Committee in presenting this bid together.”

Brisbane earned bonus points for its high percentage of existing venues, a good masterplan, experience in organising major events and its favourable weather among other things.

The state of Queensland hosted the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The IOC has overhauled its bidding rules in 2019 to reduce costs and make the process easier for cities. There are no official candidate cities campaigning ahead of the vote as has been the case in the past.

Instead the IOC puts the preferred host to the vote at its session following another review by the commission.

Kristin Kloster Aasen, who heads the Future Host Commission, said it was not yet clear when the IOC vote would be held, as it all depended on the targeted dialogue with Brisbane which would start right away.

“They are a very advanced project, a number of criteria that sit very well with us. It has been moulded for a number of years, good legacy plans, good venue plan,” she said.

“There are many, many things that made us put this forward,” she added.

Coates said Australia hoped to conclude its work on the bid by early May and the vote could come in Tokyo, where the IOC have a meeting before the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics in the Japanese capital.

Australia hosted the Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Melbourne in 1956.

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin; editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)



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Pep Guardiola killed my confidence at Manchester City, says RB Leipzig’s Angelino


Angelino has scored eight goals in 31 appearances for RB Leipzig this season

Angelino says Pep Guardiola did not trust him at Manchester City and killed his confidence, before he completed a permanent move to RB Leipzig.

The left-back joined City aged 16 but after some loan spells and a brief move to PSV Eindhoven decided to move on.

The Spaniard is now playing regularly and thriving under Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann, who he says had the “courage” to use him from the start.

“I had a rest when I was with Pep for six months, that was enough,” he said.

“I don’t want it again. That’s why I want to be on the pitch. I don’t like being out. I am thankful that I get to play most of the time. I had enough holidays.”

The 24-year-old was part of the RB Leipzig side who reached the Champions League semi-finals last year and returned on loan to the Bundesliga outfit this season.

Leipzig, who sit second in the table behind Bayern Munich, then exercised a clause in the deal to make his move permanent last week.

Asked about Guardiola and Nagelsmann, he said: “They both like to play with the ball, get the ball quick, there is one thing that is a big difference – one gave me the confidence and played me and the other didn’t.

“So I am thankful to Julian for the trust and sometimes you need, I don’t want to use a bad word, you need courage to put a player and he did from the first game.”

Angelino was on City’s books for more than four years before being sold to PSV in 2018, with the Premier League club then repurchasing the left-sided player the following season.

He played 12 times in all competitions before first being allowed to join Leizpig on loan in January 2020, but does not believe he got a fair chance under Guardiola.

“It killed me,” said Angelino. “The confidence was everything, when you don’t have the trust of a coach it is everything.

“I was judged for pre-season, two games, and then I didn’t get my chance until a few months. It is hard to play one game every two months so I am just happy that happened so I could come here and meet Julian and everyone here.

“It was a 50/50 experience. On one side I really learned a lot from Pep, he improved me as a player on the pitch and I have to be thankful also for the experience.

“On the other side I didn’t play as much as I wanted to or I deserved.”

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Changes galore for Waratahs with relaxed Harrison key against Brumbies


“Will is still young and tries to put a lot on his plate and be in control and do a lot of things,” Whitaker told the Herald. “It’s admirable and 100 per cent that’s why you love him, but I think we need to take some of the stuff off his plate because he’s in charge of a lot of things for a young guy that is probably too much.

“This week you’ll definitely see a lot more settled game from him and him not trying to worry about the bigger stuff. He will be more focused on getting himself into the game.

Waratahs young gun Will Harrison.Credit:Getty

“Maybe the boys were a little bit too excited or too anxious. We turned over way too much ball, so I think if anything the guys have got to relax a little bit and build into the game.

“We scored that first try after three minutes and probably got ahead of ourselves because we tried to score in every phase after it and just turned the ball over too much.”

The Waratahs have named Moeroa as Joey Walton’s injury replacement at inside-centre, while new skipper Alex Newsome will come in from the wing to wear the No.13 jersey.

“He’s a bigger ball-carrier and a bigger person in the centres. Hopefully he’ll give us a bit of go-forward,” Whitaker said of Moeroa. “He’s been around rugby league for a while, he knows how to get up for games.”

The Waratahs haven’t beaten the Brumbies since 2018.

The Waratahs haven’t beaten the Brumbies since 2018. Credit:Getty

Mark Nawaqanitawase will start on the wing, with rising Randwick utility back Triston Reilly named for a potential debut on the wing, while Jack Grant is promoted to starting halfback in the absence of injured skipper Jake Gordon.

“He’s put on a bit of size and got a bit bigger and worked hard on that contact,” Whitaker said of Nawaqanitawase, who after some decent early performances was overlooked for the rest of 2020. “He’s got some skills you can’t coach.

“Jack gives us that ability to change the game up when we have to.”

Last week’s No.6 Will Harris, has been ruled out with a shoulder complaint but NSW get Lachie Swinton is returning from suspension.

The Brumbies have made one change to their starting XV, with Folau Fainga’a ruled out due to a sore toe according to coach Dan McKellar, who is predicting a big response from a wounded Waratahs team.

“They’ll have a bee in their bonnet about that [loss],” McKellar said. “We expect a team that is fired up.”

The Brumbies have won 16 of their previous 17 games on home turf and beaten the Waratahs by an average of 30 points in the last two matches in Canberra.

“They’re the form team and they’ve got runs on the board,” Whitaker said.

Meanwhile, Suliasi Vunivalu will come off the bench for the Reds in their clash against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.

After serving a week suspension for an alleged altercation with a security guard, Vunivalu is on the cusp of a professional rugby debut, having switched across from rugby league following a NRL premiership with the Melbourne Storm.

Reds prop Taniela Tupou returns to the starting side, while the Rebels have opted for Matt To’omua at No.10 and Reece Hodge at No.12 for their first hit-out of 2021.

Brumbies v Waratahs, GIO Stadium, Saturday 7.45pm (AEDT)

Brumbies 1-15: James Slipper, Connal McInerney, Allan Alaalatoa, Darcy Swain, Cadeyrn Neville, Rob Valetini, Jahrome Brown, Pete Samu, Nic White, Noah Lolesio, Mack Hansen, Irae Simone, Len Ikitau, Andy Muirhead, Tom Banks.

Bench: Lachlan Lonergan, Harry Lloyd, Tom Ross, Nick Frost, Tom Cusack, Ryan Lonergan, Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.

Waratahs 1-15: Angus Bell, Tom Horton, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Sam Caird, Jack Whetton, Lachie Swinton, Carlo Tizzano, Jack Dempsey, Jack Grant, Will Harrison, James Ramm, Terapi Moeroa, Alex Newsome, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Jack Maddocks.

Bench: David Porecki, Tetera Faulkner, Sio Tatola, Jeremy Williams, Hugh Sinclair, Henry Robertson, Tane Edmed, Triston Reilly.

Reds v Rebels, Suncorp Stadium, Friday 7.45pm (AEDT)

Reds 1-15: Dane Zander, Alex Mafi, Taniela Tupou, Angus Blyth, Seru Uru, Angus Scott-Young, Fraser McReight, Harry Wilson, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Filipo Daugunu, Hamish Stewart, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Jock Campbell.

Bench: Josh Nasser, Harry Hoopert, Feao Fotuaika, Ryan Smith, Sam Wallis, Moses Sorovi, Bryce Hegarty, Suliasi Vunivalu.

Rebels 1-15: Cabous Eloff, Jordan Uelese, Pone Fa’amausili, Steve Cummins, Trevor Hosea, Brad Wilkin, Richard Hardwick, Michael Wells, Joe Powell, Matt To’omua, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge, Stacey Ili, Lachie Anderson, Tom Pincus.

Bench: Ed Craig, Isaac Aedo Kailea, Rhys Van Nek, Rob Leota, Josh Kemeny, James Tuttle, Glen Vaihu, Frank Lomani.

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Atletico Madrid 0-1 Chelsea: Olivier Giroud scores winner in Champions League last 16 first leg


Chelsea are aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14

Olivier Giroud’s spectacular overhead kick gave Chelsea an outstanding victory against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last 16 first leg in Bucharest.

Giroud’s superb moment of improvisation not only delivered the win and a vital away goal but also continued new manager Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start at Chelsea and put them in pole position to reach the quarter-finals.

In a tie played in Romania instead of Spain because of Covid-19 restrictions, Giroud demonstrated athleticism and technique to send an acrobatic effort beyond Atletico keeper Jan Oblak in the 68th minute. The goal was originally ruled out for offside before a video assistant referee review revealed the ball had bounced off Atletico defender Mario Hermoso.

It was reward for Chelsea’s more progressive style in the face of the usual attritional approach from Diego Simeone’s Atletico. They rarely troubled Tuchel’s side who comfortably kept the in-form but increasingly frustrated Luis Suarez at bay.

Chelsea have now gone eight matches unbeaten since Tuchel succeeded Frank Lampard while Giroud is emerging as their Champions League talisman after scoring all four goals in the group-phase victory against Sevilla and a last-minute winner away to Rennes.

Tuchel was quick to praise the impact of 34-year-old World Cup winner Giroud and said: “If you see him on a daily basis, you cannot be surprised. He is totally fit, his body is in shape and his physicality is on top level.

“He trains like a 20-year-old, like a 24-year-old. He is a guy who has a good mixture of serious and joy in training. He is always positive and it is a big factor for the group.”

Tuchel’s biggest statement yet

Tuchel’s Chelsea have been efficient rather than spectacular since the German coach was appointed following Lampard’s departure in January – but there will be no complaints after the most impressive result of his brief time in charge.

Chelsea were regarded as underdogs in this last-16 tie against the La Liga leaders but apart from a couple of early scares – keeper Edouard Mendy miscontrolled early in the game before Suarez flashed the ball across the face of goal – they were in charge.

They showed more ambition than a strangely lethargic and even more cautious than usual Atletico.

It will increase Chelsea’s confidence that they have appointed a coach who is comfortable operating at the highest levels after reaching the Champions League final with Paris St-Germain last season and impressing at Borussia Dortmund.

And once again Giroud proved what an intelligent and talented player he is with a piece of ingenuity that settled a tight game to give Chelsea high hopes going into the second leg.

Giroud has proved time and again he is invaluable to Chelsea’s cause, demonstrating what a bargain buy he was at £18m from Arsenal in January 2018.

It was also a good night for young England forward Callum Hudson-Odoi, who performed creditably after the debate surrounding his substitution after coming on as a substitute in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Southampton.

Hudson-Odoi was replaced again after 79 minutes in Bucharest but this was after a performance full of energy and hard work that will have delighted taskmaster Tuchel on a highly satisfying night for Chelsea.

Atletico still pose a threat – but this was poor

This was a dismal showing from an Atletico Madrid side who have been excellent domestically in heading Real Madrid, Sevilla and Barcelona.

Atletico adopted a more conservative approach than Chelsea despite this being their ‘home’ leg, albeit on neutral territory, and the old streetfighter Suarez was reduced to familiar moments of gamesmanship in a bid to unsettle his opponents. It was all to no avail as the Premier League side held firm.

It was a game that pointed to Chelsea building the platform for progress in the second leg but Atletico’s resilience, ability to fight the odds and love of being the underdog still makes them a threat.

Simeone will need to inspire a big performance from his players in the second leg but they can never be written off, as Liverpool – rampant in the Premier League at the time – painfully discovered when they were eliminated by Atletico over two legs at this stage last season, completed by a 3-2 win at Anfield after coming from 2-0 down.

Chelsea achieved a superb result and their destiny is now in their own hands but Tuchel will not, and cannot, allow for any complacency against an Atletico team who may just revel in the task facing them in the second leg.

Another Champions League goal for Giroud – the stats

  • Thomas Tuchel became the third Chelsea manager to win his first Champions League game in charge when the game took place in the knockout stage after Roberto Di Matteo and Guus Hiddink.
  • Atletico Madrid failed to have a shot on target against Chelsea – the first time they had failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League game since March 2019 v Juventus.
  • Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud has scored six Champions League goals this season, his best return in a single campaign in the competition.
  • Giroud (34 years and 146 days) became the oldest player to score a Champions League knockout goal for Chelsea.
  • Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League this season (five).
  • Mason Mount’s yellow card after 55 seconds was the quickest card shown in the Champions League this season.
  • Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea and PSG) became only the second manager in the history of the Champions League to manage two different clubs in the competition within a single season after Ronald Koeman in 2007-08 (PSV and Valencia).

‘A big reward’ – what they said

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel told BT Sport: “Fantastic result, fantastic goal. Well deserved.

“We wanted to dominate in the opponents’ half, to never lose concentration, not to do any easy mistakes and always be aware of quick counter-attacks for all their quality.

“It was a very disciplined performance – a deserved shut-out. This is the hard work, a team effort – the basis for a big win.

“We knew they were ready to suffer with eight people in the box. The intention was to keep the intensity high. This is what we did very good. We never let them breathe or come out for counter-attacks. We have a big reward with this result.

“This is one of the toughest challenges to open a defence like Atletico.”

Player of the match

GiroudOlivier Giroud

Atlético Madrid

  1. Squad number13Player nameOblak

  2. Squad number15Player nameSavic

  3. Squad number7Player nameJoão Félix

  4. Squad number18Player nameFelipe

  5. Squad number6Player nameKoke

  6. Squad number8Player nameSaúl

  7. Squad number14Player nameMarcos Llorente

  8. Squad number10Player nameCorrea

  9. Squad number11Player nameLemar

  10. Squad number22Player nameHermoso

  11. Squad number9Player nameSuárez

  12. Squad number19Player nameDembele

  13. Squad number20Player nameVitolo

  14. Squad number12Player nameRenan Lodi

  15. Squad number5Player nameTorreira

Chelsea

  1. Squad number18Player nameGiroud

  2. Squad number19Player nameMount

  3. Squad number7Player nameKanté

  4. Squad number28Player nameAzpilicueta

  5. Squad number11Player nameWerner

  6. Squad number20Player nameHudson-Odoi

  7. Squad number4Player nameChristensen

  8. Squad number3Player nameAlonso

  9. Squad number17Player nameKovacic

  10. Squad number2Player nameRüdiger

  11. Squad number5Player nameJorginho

  12. Squad number24Player nameJames

  13. Squad number10Player namePulisic

  14. Squad number16Player nameMendy

  15. Squad number22Player nameZiyech

  16. Squad number29Player nameHavertz

Line-ups

Atl Madrid

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 13Oblak
  • 15Savic
  • 18Felipe
  • 22HermosoSubstituted forMachín Pérezat 84′minutes
  • 14LlorenteBooked at 63mins
  • 6Koke
  • 8SaúlSubstituted forTorreiraat 82′minutes
  • 11LemarBooked at 90mins
  • 10CorreaSubstituted forDembeleat 82′minutes
  • 7SequeiraSubstituted forLodi dos Santosat 82′minutes
  • 9Suárez

Substitutes

  • 1Grbic
  • 4Kondogbia
  • 5Torreira
  • 12Lodi dos Santos
  • 19Dembele
  • 20Machín Pérez
  • 27Camello
  • 28García
  • 29Sánchez
  • 31San Román

Chelsea

Formation 3-4-2-1

  • 16Mendy
  • 28Azpilicueta
  • 4Christensen
  • 2Rüdiger
  • 20Hudson-OdoiSubstituted forJamesat 80′minutes
  • 5JorginhoBooked at 64mins
  • 17KovacicSubstituted forZiyechat 74′minutes
  • 3Alonso
  • 19MountBooked at 1minsSubstituted forKantéat 74′minutes
  • 11WernerSubstituted forPulisicat 87′minutes
  • 18GiroudSubstituted forHavertzat 87′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Arrizabalaga
  • 7Kanté
  • 9Abraham
  • 10Pulisic
  • 13Caballero
  • 15Zouma
  • 21Chilwell
  • 22Ziyech
  • 23Gilmour
  • 24James
  • 29Havertz
  • 33Emerson

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Djokovic defends Australian Open dynasty against Medvedev rampage



FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates during his semi final match against Russia’s Aslan Karatsev REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

February 23, 2021

By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A very different Australian Open comes to a familiar end on Sunday as Novak Djokovic looks to thwart another challenge to his Melbourne Park dynasty from the latest Grand Slam aspirant in Daniil Medvedev.

The tournament has charted a rocky path through the COVID-19 pandemic and a snap five-day lockdown due to a local outbreak robbed it of much of its vitality.

But a comforting sense of normality will pervade Rod Laver Arena when a healthy crowd files in for a final that could mark a shift in the tennis landscape.

Much like the tournament, world number one and defending champion Djokovic has been forced into crisis management at times during his campaign.

Pilloried in the leadup for petitioning organisers to ease strict quarantine protocols for players, the Serb struggled with an abdominal strain sustained in the third round.

His ability to manage the injury was key in bringing him within one match of a record-extending ninth Australian Open crown but he said he was fighting fit after beating Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev in the semi-finals.

Victory over fourth seed Medvedev would mean an 18th Grand Slam title for Djokovic, pulling him within two of the record 20 shared by “Big Three” rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

While the 33-year-old Djokovic has never lost a final at Melbourne Park, his reign has rarely looked so vulnerable.

He suffered a huge scare against Dominic Thiem in the five-set decider last year, and Medvedev is possibly the player he would least like to face.

Not for nothing did Djokovic brand him “the man to beat”.

The rangy Russian has been a machine since November, clinching the Paris Masters, the ATP Finals and the team-based ATP Cup in a 20-match winning streak that has included 12 straight victories over top-10 opponents.

Djokovic was among Medvedev’s victims at the ATP Finals but when the Serb strolls onto his favourite centre court on Sunday, the form-book is unlikely to figure.

With the exception of Thiem’s U.S. Open win last year where Djokovic was disqualified for hitting a tennis ball into a line judge, the “Big Three” have won all the Slams since 2017.

“There has been a lot of talk about the new generations coming and taking over from the three of us but realistically that isn’t happening still,” Djokovic told Eurosport.

“I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I am going to make them work their arse off for it.”

Contesting his second Grand Slam final but first in Australia, Medvedev is hungry for success after being edged by Nadal in a classic five-set decider at the 2019 U.S. Open.

Djokovic might see something of himself in the confident 25-year-old, who boasts similarly elite court coverage, defence and shot-making.

Medvedev has added mental strength to his arsenal, which proved invaluable in his semi-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas as he closed out a tense third set after briefly wobbling in the face of a hostile crowd.

He has also shown willingness to indulge in a bit of niggle, saying the pressure is all on Djokovic as he chases the 20-slam record.

Though Medvedev has won three of their last four matches, he has only met Djokovic once at a Grand Slam, losing in four sets in the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.

He said he was happy to be the “challenger” against the “favourite”.

“And he’s one of the greatest players in the history of tennis,” he told reporters.

“So playing the final against him is superb.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)



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